Start with the comprehensive Index to the first six volumes. Each volume has its own index, but this is a good way to "follow" your ancestor as they moved from one area to another.
Volume I is arranged by monthly meeting (church), beginning with the oldest and ending with the youngest. Knowing how each section is arranged will help you dig deeper, finding clues to original records and possibly more information.
The first page includes the county, the names of the earliest members, and sometimes other clues. For example, each meeting branched off from an older meeting. Knowing the earlier meeting is a clue about the earliest members' origins.
The last paragraph of these introductory pages lists the original sources of these genealogical extracts. If there were two or more records books, these lines will explain the page numbers next to family information in the next section.
Next is a section listing information from the meeting’s birth, death, and marriage records, arranged alphabetically by surname, then by husband's name, and grouped together by family.
The final section for each meeting lists abstracts of the minutes of the monthly meeting for business, including marriages (the date the marriage was approved, not when it occurred), new memberships, transfers of membership, disownments, and restorations to membership. Entries are arranged alphabetically by surname, and then chronologically. Separate men's and women's minutes are combined, so a husband's membership transfer might be listed on a separate line from his wife's.
These extracts list an abbreviated version of what happened in the minutes, from a genealogist's perspective. So, if Jane Smith's membership or marriage was approved and the abstract doesn't mention her parents, she probably presented her request at an earlier meeting, but the original record won't likely mention her parents. If Jane Smith was disowned, however, and the abstract doesn't specify why, original meeting minutes from one or many months earlier will often contain a complaint about what Jane did.
b – born
bur – buried
cert – Certificate: a statement issued by a monthly meeting to a person (or persons) transferring their membership to another monthly meeting. Also a marriage certificate.
ch – child, children.
co – chosen overseer(s): selected for an important office of responsibility in the meeting.
com – complained, complained of: a person could be complained of for an act that was contrary to the rules and advices as outlined in the Discipline. Unless the member could satisfy the monthly meeting of his or her innocence or repentance, the next step was usually disownment.
con – condemned: an act of confession and repentance by a member who had been "complained of" ("reported") or even "disowned" for a violation of the Discipline. When a person "condemned" his or her own misconduct, the monthly meeting might then restore him or her to membership.
d – died
dec – deceased.
dis – disowned, disowned for: removed from membership for violation of the rules or advices in the Discipline; does not imply exclusion from worship, but only the right to participate in decision making. Unless the person later repented and "condemned" his or her own misconduct and was later readmitted into membership, he or she would not be mentioned again in the minutes.
dt – daughter, daughters
fam – family
form – formerly
gc – granted certificate: permitted to move one’s membership.
gct – granted certificate to: permitted to move one’s membership to a particular meeting.
gl – granted letter: permitted to move one’s membership to a church of another denomination.
h – husband.
jas – joined another (religious) society (denomination).
ltm – liberated to marry, left at liberty to marry: permitted to marry.
m – marry, married, marrying, marriage
mbr – member
mbrp – membership
mcd – married contrary to disciple: married another Friend, but in a civil ceremony (usually resulting in disownment); sometimes used interchangeably with "married out of society" or "married out of unity."
MH – meetinghouse: the church building.
MM – monthly meeting: the lowest administrative unit of Friends, originally comprising of several particular or "preparative" meetings (congregations) that met together monthly to transact church business.
mos – married out of society: married a non-Friend, usually resulting in disownment; sometimes used interchangeably with "married contrary to discipline" or "married out of unity."
mou – married out of unity: married to a non-Friend, usually resulting in disownment; sometimes used interchangeably with "married contrary to discipline" or "married out of unity."
mtg – meeting: may refer to a Friends religious service ("meeting for worship"), an administrative meeting ("meeting for business," "monthly meeting," etc.), or the congregation itself.
prc – produced a certificate: transferred membership.
prcf – produced a certificate from: transferred membership from one meeting to another.
QM – quarterly meeting: the second administrative level of Friends, comprising of several "monthly" meetings that met together quarterly to transact church business.
rec – receive, received (into membership).
recrq – received (into membership) by request, rather than by transfer of membership from another Friends Meeting.